Southern Tier -
Denis Kertz, ©2004
It was a chilly 32 degrees when I got up so I packed up quickly and rode the mile to town.† At my now favorite breakfast place in Williams, I had 2 buttermilk pancakes and they were good again.† The only bad thing was there was a different waitress and she had only one speed Ė slow.† It didnít matter how many folks were waiting; she just ambled along.† She also seemed to avoid eye contact lest a customer might try to get her attention.† By contrast, yesterdayís waitress was a model of efficiency.
I left town about 8:30 and headed toward the interstate, the
only way to get to
After repairing the tire, I decided to repack my front panniers in an attempt to eliminate my front wheel wobble.† I just switched a water filter and some tools, making my left pannier slightly heavier although they both felt about the same weight.† When I resumed riding my wobble seemed greatly reduced.
I rode historic
My dayís destination was
Riding on a few more miles with some modest climbing I came
upon a wide open meadow that was right about where I expected
The campground office was closed for the day so I was told in the bar to pay in the morning when the office opened at 8:00.† The rate was $8 which I thought was pretty good, until I learned showers cost $2, requiring 8 quarters, which almost no one would happen to carry around.† I only had 4 quarters but I got bailed out by some Mexican workers who showed up at the same time for their showers.† So I was able to get 4 more quarters and a shower.
After eating the remainder of my Subway sandwich and some other food, I walked to the bar for a beer and to write my notes.† I found the small grocery store next door was still open so I got some milk for breakfast in the morning.
I wasnít in a hurry to get going since I had to pay my camp fee of $8 and the office didnít open until 8:00.† It was 34 degrees when I got up and the milk I bought the night before was ready for breakfast.
After thinking about my front wheel wobble some more I thought back to the fact I had installed a new Arkel mounting system.† I realized the hooks were further apart than previously, which meant I couldnít position the panniers as far back as I used to.† However, the Arkel hooks were on a sliding channel and were adjustable.† So I moved the rear hooks forward so I could position the panniers further back like I used to have them.
At 8:00 I stopped at the office and paid my camp fee and
About 10:45 I saw the Happy Jack Lodge that had a restaurant so I decided to have a 2nd, late breakfast of pancakes and coffee that, surprisingly, was a little less than $5.† I expected it to be more expensive than normal since this was a resort lodge but it turned out to be the least expensive so far.† The waiter and cashier also turned out to be friendly and helpful about the next few days of riding to Springerville.
Rejuvenated, I continued and came to Clintís Well and the
Earlier I had found my pannier adjustment had worked well but now I started getting some more wobble.† It was almost as if my bike had gotten tired and was unable to hold itís line as well.
After some initial climbing on 87 I began a major descent of 2,600 feet that I would have enjoyed more if I hadnít known I would have to reclaim that altitude tomorrow.† The descent was a winding one and a steep 6% according to some truck warning signs.† During the winding descent there were occasional peeks through the hills of the mountains in the distance.† On a bicycle I had the luxury of being able to stop almost anywhere and capture these great views on photos.
What was not so nice was a significant increase in traffic in the mid-afternoon.† I attributed this to a Friday afternoon rush by folks to get to weekend destinations.† It got somewhat unnerving to have packs of vehicles zoom by even though none were particularly threatening.
After the first long descent I stopped in the small town of
Just outside Payson I saw a turnoff for the Houston Mesa campground but continued a few miles to scout the town.† The 4-lane road through town turned out to be a zoo on a Friday afternoon.† I continued until I saw a Tourist Information sign where I stopped.† However, the lady there was not very helpful and seemed to have no idea how being on a bicycle could affect travel.† I did learn that $60 was the cheapest motel I could expect.† Although I had some doubts $60 was really the least expensive, it made my camping decision easy.† Having gotten no useful camping information I decided to head back to the campground turnoff I saw earlier.† On the way I stopped at a Subway for a foot long sandwich for dinner.
The campground was just off the road and not crowded/full as I feared it might be on a nice Friday.† I was also surprised to see the USFS camp had showers so I made my way to the showers after setting up but showers required 4 quarters and I only had one.† But I had just seen the campground hostess tooling around on a golf cart so I located her and held her up for 4 quarters and enjoyed my 2nd shower in 2 days.† The tent site itself cost $15 so camping wasnít any great bargain except in comparison to a motel.
I packed up and headed to town with a temperature of 41, stopping at a foodmart for milk for the last of my granola stash.† I continued into town and turned onto 260 east and stopped at a grocery store there.† Of course, the groceries added more weight for the dayís climb so maybe grocery shopping wasnít the smartest move.
Just down the road was a cafť where I stopped for breakfast
but I just had a bowl of oatmeal and coffee.†
When I left it was about 8:40 but I wasnít in a great hurry with the
looming climb ahead.† But first I had to
descend a couple hundred feet to
Although the early route climbed it also seemed at times the
climbing wasnít bad.† In 15 miles I
reached Kohls Ranch and considered stopping for a break but I didnít need one
so I passed on.† Shortly, there was major
construction underway to replace a section of winding road.† Then the road was mostly 4-lane to the
and that was much better.† In a few miles
When I resumed riding I saw 5 ĎWatch for Elkí signs within a half mile so I guessed this was elk country.† Numerous other warnings signs the rest of the day confirmed that but I saw no elk in the middle of the day.
In a short while I saw the road etched in the side of the
Rim and I knew I was about to start the real climb.† The climb turned out to be 5 miles at a 5 mph
pace.† There were some great views of the
mountains to the south on the climb so I had some good excuses to stop and take
photos.† At the top of the climb there
The rest of the way to Heber was about a 1,000 foot descent so it was pretty easy.† However, the 4-lane road narrowed to a 2-lane road at the Rim top and I was once again riding on a shoulder varying from a one foot shoulder to a non-existent shoulder.† Along the way I encountered my first jerk of the trip, a trailer truck driver who insisted on 2 long blasts of his horn just as he was overtaking me.† Then a short while later another trailer truck driver brushed by me within a couple feet on a 4-lane section where he surely could have eased over a bit.† However, I wasnít sure if he was being a jerk or just careless.† In contrast to these two drivers, most truck drivers were very courteous, often switching over to the other lane of a 4-lane road even though it wasnít necessary.
A few miles after cresting the Rim I stopped for a cold
drink break in Forest Estates and then cruised downhill into Heber, my intended
destination.† I thought my state map
showed camping in/near Heber but I didnít find anything.† I stopped at a fish & chips place around
3:00 for food.† The lady there didnít
really know about camping but another customer familiar with the area gave me
some suggestions.† Ted was from
After he left I chatted with the cook and then decided to take my chances down the road, leaving at 4:00.† No one was around the fire station in a few miles but there was a VFW next door so I inquired there.† I got Tedís suggestion again to just head down the road and pull over.† So I rode another 10 miles and turned off on a service road where I picked a spot and settled for the night.
I used powdered milk for the first time on this trip as I ate in my tent.† After packing up I was on the road shortly after 7:00 on a cool morning of 41 degrees with a rarity Ė clouds in the sky.
Interestingly, there was a nice shoulder but I still didnít need it because there was little traffic on a Sunday morning.† The pine tree forest eventually gave some ground and ranches began to appear.† After about 21 miles I rode past the Show Low city limits sign but it was several miles before the city showed up.† I rode through town looking for a breakfast place, ignoring the JB for something with character.† Down the street a pizza place was lined with cars and a local confirmed this was a good breakfast place.† It was as I had good pancakes and coffee for less than $5.† I didnít get any help with the weather forecast but I did get my water bottles filled.
So shortly after 11:00 I took off for Springerville, 50 miles away.† As I left I had a wide shoulder but someone had the bright idea of putting rumble strips right in the middle so I had little shoulder to work with.† Tall pine trees gave way to 8-10 feet evergreen shrubs that grew shorter along the way.† Some serious clouds developed to the south and before long I could see it was raining in the hills to my right.† When I felt a few drops I pulled off under a large tree to see what would develop.† The light drizzle stopped and I resumed riding although the clouds overhead and to the south were not encouraging.† And a few minutes later I heard some thunder rumbling.† The clouds seemed to be hovering over me but the worst part eventually moved to the northeast where I saw occasional lightning.
In the mean time the scenery changed dramatically to wide open land with a smattering of evergreen shrubs.† I descended into a big valley and started the longest climb of the day, climbing close to 1,000 feet mostly on a 2.5 mile climb.† That was followed by a 400 foot descent and then a rolling ride through picturesque wide open undulating hills.
When I left Show Low I had to decide whether to take 60 or
260 to Springerville.† From locals it
seemed 260 was more scenic but 60 was more direct and I chose it in light of
the potential bad weather.† Now with the
over the last 25 miles I was glad I had chosen this route and I took numerous
photos.† However, the weather remained a
concern.† The ominous clouds were filling
the sky and I hoped I had not spent too much time stopping and admiring the
scenery.† After one last moderate climb I
descended into Springerville around 4:00, a town of 2,000 in an area known as
I stopped at the motel that advertised $30 but the proprietor said they were full and warned rooms were in short supply.† I checked with the motel he recommended and managed to get a room for $7 more.† The receptionist said it had been raining all day so I considered myself fortunate to have only had a few sprinkles.†
After cleaning up I noted it was raining.† So I ordered out for pizza and had a good medium thick crust pepperoni pizza.† Then I checked my favorite TV channel and saw a mixed report for tomorrow although the report was for Show Low, 50 miles away.
Around 3:00 I woke up and realized I had forgotten to charge my AA batteries for my camera.† My camera used 2 AA batteries efficiently and I had 4 sets but the batteries lost their charges even when unused so it was important to charge them weekly.† So I set up my charger to start on 4 of them.† They were re-charged within an hour and when I woke again I set up the other 4 for re-charging, switching in a new set for the camera.
In the morning I ate breakfast in the room using milk I bought the evening before and kept in the small refrigerator in the room.† I also checked the weather and didnít see anything different Ė 30% chance of showers and possibility of thunderstorms.† The weather looked OK outside so I packed up and left around 7:30.
The road started climbing gradually from the start and would climb from just less than 7,000 to 8,550 feet over 22 miles with just one descent of a couple hundred feet.† A sign along the road noted this was the Coronado Trail Scenic Road and the initial miles lived up to that billing.† After a climb over a hill and a nice following descent the road threaded its way through close-in hills.† Then the hills receded a bit into an open area.
All the while some ominous clouds hovered in the distance in
the direction I was headed.† As I headed
to the significant climb to 8,550 I kept a lookout for possible shelters along
the way, especially when I heard some thunder rumbling, but I kept plugging on
and encountered another problem Ė cold.†
My fingers and bare toes were getting quite cold in the low 40s
temperature.† Eventually I stopped and
put on my rain gear, full-fingered gloves, and Seal Skinz socks.† I had to do this because if I had waited much
longer my fingers would have been too cold to put on the gear.† This also gave me the opportunity to use my
Pearl Izumi rain coat that I got for about half price at a factory outlet near
Appropriately dressed I was comfortable as I ground my way
to 8,550.† That was followed by a 2 mile
descent to Alpine, a small town near the
There were 2 motels in town but this was also hunting season so I didnít expect a great deal.† Both places were about $50 and one was full but the clerk at one motel told me about an RV Park that took campers so I decided to check it out.† It was on the edge of town so it was conveniently located near food.† It also had a Laundromat where I could hang out inside with some reading material.† So I paid $9 and hung out in the Laundromat for a while, dozing off for a short time during more rain.
I was surprised to learn that Alpine had a library where I could have gotten Internet access but it was a holiday and closed.† However, the RV Park owners had Internet access and were gracious enough to allow me to check email.† Later, I walked to town and had a dinner buffet for $9.95.† It was OK but didnít have a great selection of food, as would be expected in a small town.
When I got up it was a cool 29 degrees but I was comfortable in my tent and sleeping bag.† More important, there were no clouds in the sky.† My tent had some ice and it was still wet so I packed everything up inside the tent and then walked into town for breakfast at the Bear Wallow Cafť Ė across the street from where I ate last night.† This must have been the right place because it was almost completely full.† However, only one waitress had shows up and she was in perpetual motion trying to take care of everything.† I would have liked to have brought the slow-motion waitress in Williams here to show what a waitress can do.† I had the pancakes which were good.† And shortly before I left, Ting, the missing waitress showed up.† She had a smile on her face, maybe because she got to sleep in.
Back at camp I moved my tent out in to the sun to dry it off some.† Then I packed everything and was off around 8:45 with the temperature in the mid 40s.† The road started with a little descending and a little climbing and 2 significant descents of 6% and 5.5% according to signs, with a climb in between.† This was followed by a major climb of about 1,000 feet, most of it on a 4 mile stretch with a couple of nice views of mountains to the east and west.† This climb was rewarded with a long descent of about 2,000 feet.† During this descent it got considerably warmer and the aspen were just on the verge of showing their colors.
After this descent, the road climbed about 500 feet over a 3
mile stretch at a little less grade than the previous climb, topping out at
Near the bottom of the descent I stopped at a small country
store in Glenwood for a break, having my usual burrito and cold drink.† Continuing, the
So I picked the table furthest from the
I got to watch the sunrise make its appearance from my vantage point.† I also noticed a small pickup truck that left around 6:00.† I setup my tent in the sun to dry it out from the day before and ate breakfast at the picnic table that had been my bed all night.
By 7:30 I was packed and on my way without any sign of
stirring from the van.† In a few miles I
rejoined the Adventure Cycling route.† I
had about 10 miles to Buckhorn where I expected to eat breakfast but there was
only a general store there so I had a drink and got my water bottles
filled.† Then another 5 miles I
discovered Cliff had a cafť so I stopped for breakfast because there would be
nothing else until
The mountains I saw yesterday gradually receded and the landscape was rolling grassland hills with desert shrubs.† Still scenic but nothing like yesterdayís dramatic scenery.† Along the way I think I saw my first rattlesnake of the trip.† It was stretched out on the pavement in my direction of travel and completely smashed into the pavement so identification was not perfect.
Although the climbing was about 2,000 feet it wasnít really
hard climbing.† Still I could tell my
legs were a little tired, which was not surprising in light of the substantial
climbing over the last several days.† I
started thinking about a rest day in
It was just over 50 miles to
After chatting a while I stopped off at the library and took care of email.† Then I headed to the Gila Hike & Bike down the street where Greg had his bike.† I had hoped to link up with Greg again but that didnít happen.† I did get the shop to look at my rear shifting that was jumping gears in the 3rd largest cog and they adjusted the cable tension.† This was similar to the shifting problem I had last year where the mechanic thought I might need to replace my bar end shifter.† I didnít replace the shifter because shifting wasnít a problem all year until this trip.† While at the shop I also had them clean and lube my chain.† All this for a little less than $5.
After leaving the shop I headed to the RV Park but no one was there until 5:00 so I asked directions to the post office where I mailed the paperback I had just finished reading to my friend John, its owner.† John had loaned it to me about 6 months ago and probably thought he would never see it again.† Then I headed back to the RV Park just as ominous clouds moved in with some strong wind.† I decided to wait a bit to see what would develop.† After some rain things cleared up a bit and the wind died down so I decided to get a tent site for $11.
I set up my tent and then walked to a Dominicís Pizza, not realizing it was a takeout place.† When my pizza was done it had started raining again so I ate it there.† When I was finished the rain had stopped so I started walking back and it started raining again.† I passed by a building where a guy was just leaving and he offered to give me a ride.† It was only a couple blocks but it saved me from getting wet.
Back at the ranch I did some food shopping at the grocery store next door.† Then I wrote my notes in the Laundromat.
When I got up it was 37 degrees but more importantly there
were no clouds in the sky.† It had rained
at some point early in the night but my tent was fairly dry.† Unfortunately, the tent site was situated
amongst some trees and near a hill and not in a position to catch the morning
sun so I rolled it up after I dried it off as best I could with paper towels.† I had my usual breakfast and was off around
8:40, later than it might seem but
I picked up 180 heading east on a roller coaster ride.† After 7 miles I stopped at a little cafť off
the road in
Then I started the approximate 3,000 foot climb to
I descended a little more and then began some scenic climbing for about 4 miles, first through some huge, towering rocks, followed by tall pines, followed by a mixture of pines and deciduous trees.† It was autumn at this elevation, attested by the leaves on the ground along the road. †Finally, I began a 3 mile stretch of real climbing along a curvy, twisting road that had 4 or 5 U turns.† Yesterday at the bike shop a customer had commented that the last 2-3 miles were steep.† He was right but the steep grade relented occasionally and provided occasional relief.† I managed the climb oscillating around the 5 mph mark.
When I resumed the road was a winding, twisting descent for
about 15 miles.† I held my bike in check
for safety and to admire the view.† I
passed through the small towns of
At the 187 junction at
Then I ate from my food stash, jerky and bagels.† Later, still hungry I had cereal for desert.
It was 42 degrees when I got up.† I got to see the sun come up as I ate breakfast and packed up.† As I was leaving I was in a quandary because I hadnít paid my camping fee since I didnít have the exact $8.† As I left I was surprised to see staff at the check-in so I paid my $8 and left with a good conscience.
In a few miles I passed Arrey where I was tempted to stop at a cafť where a number of vehicles were gathered around Ė usually a good sign - but I had decided to wait until Hatch, 22 miles away.† For most of the day I traveled through an agricultural valley on a flat road with a slight downgrade so pedaling was easy.† Right off the bat I could tell that hay was one of the big crops.† Then it was obvious chile was a major crop as I saw both chile packing plants and chile fields with the red chiles hanging on the plants.† What I couldnít figure out was the orchards so I finally asked a local and he explained they were pecan groves and I saw them most of the day.
In addition to the agricultural crops several mountains
lined the east side of the
After 22 miles I pulled into Hatch, which billed itself as the Chile Capital of the World, and stopped at a small cafť for breakfast Ė my usual pancakes and coffee.† When I left I noticed a pain on the inside of my left knew that felt like a tendon.† It didnít bother me except when climbing and there was very little of that.† This was surprising since Iíve never had knee pain on my tours and didnít want it on this tour.† As the day wore on the pain eventually disappeared.
A few miles outside Hatch I stopped to take a photo and a
guy in a pickup stopped to chat.† Frank
I cycled another 21 miles to Radium Springs as the agricultural
land disappeared for a while and then reappeared for the rest of the way.† I saw a lot of cotton along the way.† Another 18 miles brought me through the
western edge of
I left Las Cruces well fortified and continued a few more
miles to Mesilla, which was a potential stopping point because it had a camping
area and there was nothing else on the route, camping or motel, until El
Paso.† But I had only covered 60 miles
and it was only 2:30 so I pushed on, wanting to get close to
I tried calling the Caravan Motel twice but got no answer.† Then I found a decrepit sign for the motel with no motel in sight so it was obviously gone.† So I headed a little further east to I10 where I knew there was a Super 8.† Then I noticed a city park that looked fine for camping but the folks next door werenít sure camping was allowed.† They gave me directions to city hall where I could inquire but the directions were bogus.
With the sun setting I headed to the Super 8 where I got a room for $54, one of the last rooms according to the clerk.† I knew the room wouldnít be cheap but it did have a free continental breakfast where I would have to try to make up for the room cost.† I also got some extra exercise lugging my bike up to the 2nd floor.† Then to add insult to injury the TV didnít even have The Weather Channel.
In my room I set up my tent, not to sleep in but to let it dry out.† Thatís when I noticed the strong odor in the room.† When I complained to the clerk he said that was disinfectant used by the cleaning folks.† I told the clerk I would expect some compensation for a substandard room since there were no other rooms available to switch to.† He told me to check with him in the morning.
I took advantage of the continental breakfast in the morning.† When I checked with the clerk he said he had been unable to contact anyone about compensation for my smelly room.† So I got his name to cite in a complaint letter.
As I prepared to leave I noticed my front tire was a little low so I pumped it up.† I left around 7:30 when the sun was up and headed back to highway 20.† I saw a group of cyclists out for their morning ride and thought I might be able to catch them since the road was downhill somewhat and I had the advantage on a downhill.† But the road flattened out and they turned north on 20 while I headed south.
In the 5 miles south on 20 to pick up 28 I momentarily left
Once back on 20 I followed Laurieís directions to her place at the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.† Her directions took me along a winding route and up a fairly steep but short hill whereas the route I would have taken on my own was flatter and more straight forward.† That made me wonder whether Laurie was trying to wear me out or test my stamina.
In any event I found her house without problem and she was
surprised to see me show up around 11:00, expecting me either later in the day
or tomorrow.† I got a quick tour of the
place and used the laundry facilities to do my first real laundry of the
trip.† Then I settled into an easy chair
to watch my alma mater lose to
Later, Laurie took me to a used bookstore so I could get
another paperback to read and then we ate at a good hole-in-the-wall type of
Mexican restaurant.† We followed that up
with a side trip to the mountain overlooking
Copyright Denis Kertz, 2004. All rights reserved.